Friday, November 5, 2010

FUMBLE – WHAT’S THE SOURCE?

This week's perspective from Joe Chidley:

The foodie twitter-sphere was aghast this week at allegations of plagiarism leveled at Cooks Source magazine, which according to a writer named Monica Gaudio reprinted a story she posted online in 2005 called “A tale of two tarts”—but without her knowledge, permission, nor any payment at all. What makes this a communications misfire is the response from the magazine’s managing editor, Judith Griggs, who in response to Gaudio’s complaint retorted that content found on the Web is public domain, and that the editorial process vastly improved the story—so basically, Gaudio should be thanking her, not complaining. Later, on Facebook, Griggs boasted that the controversy had boosted the magazine’s Facebook fan base from 110 to 1870—prompting one reaction that called the post “smug, arrogant and tone-deaf.” It’s hard to disagree. And it seems that Cooks Source in its response broke a couple cardinal rules of crisis communications. First, don’t attempt to minimize the impact of alleged wrongdoing—that just makes you look more concerned for your own skin than for the damage that’s been done. And second—and it’s a big one—get your facts straight. In this case, it’s just not true that what’s posted on the Web is public domain—it’s protected by the same copyright laws as any other form of content. Now, the magazine has become the target for a slew of allegations of ripping off stories (including from The Food Network)—and Gaudio’s complaint might just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.